The Power of Two: Three Reasons Why Sales and Marketing Can (And Must) Communicate

One of the greatest failings of a business is not listening to its customers. The next is when marketing doesn’t, or won’t, listen to its sales people.

While far from a new problem, in the era of social marketing, such a weakness is potentially disruptive and costly. When so many companies acknowledge that developing targeted, relevant content can help attract customers, some companies still refuse to tap the one source that knows what’s actually happening on the ground.

Attention Marketers: You Don’t Know EVERYTHING

Here’s the thing. Marketing serves a vitally important function, but it does not have all the answers. Far from it. And, honestly, how can it? Its inputs derive from the company leadership, product development, competitive analysis and customer and industry trends.

Anyone who thinks that all the solutions to a company’s marketing strategy can be constantly cooked up in a lone office is either overworked, over confident or overlooking the obvious.

Here are three reasons why an ongoing marketing /sales dialogue is crucial.

Deeper Insights. There might be an issue your customers are thinking and talking about right now that is crucial to their sales and revenue. The good thing is that your sales people know about it. The bad thing is that you don’t. Imagine the rewards you could reap if you were addressing that issue that went to the core of your customers’ pain and that your company understood it and shared insights on how to solve it?  How much long term good will and potential revenue are you missing out on?

Info Alignment. Marketers are generally measured on producing deliverables –brochures, white papers, ads, and so forth – even if none of that activity results in measurable financial impact. Aligning what “stuff” works for what stage the prospect is in the sales funnel does two things:

1. It puts a microscope on the kinds of support and sales materials that will help move the prospect to a customer, cutting down on useless and costly materials; and

2. it arms sales people with the right piece of information at the right time to supply useful and relevant information to drive the process forward.

Working From The Same Page. A perennial rant from sales is that it believes marketing doesn’t listen to what it needs and delivers materials and messages it doesn’t want. Message to marketing: don’t ignore sales, involve them.

Sales knows what resonates with customers, and how to best communicate it, so what better way to improve your marketing and messaging by routinely bringing them into the process of coming up with ideas/angles? Marketing will get valuable inputs and sales will get useful, valuable and timely “stuff” they really want.

So many channels and mechanisms exist, from email to Twitter, to communicate mission critical information rapidly and regularly. Developing two-way access between sales and marketing will not only promote better communication, but ongoing trust. This cultural shift, while not easy, is essential.

Marketing and sales shouldn’t be treated like two separate operations; they are simply two parts of a bigger process. When you connect the two, good things happen for the entire organization.

The One Step to One-Up Your Competition

Every business asks itself: how can I better compete?  My products or services are competitive – heck, they’re better than competitors!  They are priced right.  Customers are happy.  What more can we do to attract customers?

Even breakthrough products face this challenge.

A recent editorial in The Wall Street Journal addressed this succinctly, talking about AOL.com as the first to market with a social network – a service which is now, of course, failing in the social network department due to Facebook’s prominence.

If AOL had millions of members back in the late-90s, long before Facebook launched in in 2004, what went wrong?

Ignorance of the value of the communities its members were creating.  “Not using the service the ways its customers did,” according to the author, a former AOL employee.  Instead, AOL put the emphasis on attracting advertisers to its content.  They didn’t “get it.”

This is a lesson that translates to marketing.

    • How deep is your grasp of your customers’ use of, and experience with, your product or service? (Be honest!)
    • Do you understand the business value/implications of their purchases of your product, versus others?
    • Are you ignoring the potential community that could be built for your customers?

As we’ve seen with the wild success of Facebook, people want to belong, for personal and business purposes.  This was proven in business long ago by IT companies who have vital user communities.

The overall takeaway is that engagement with a product or service is not about what the company thinks, but what the customer thinks.

Exploit that in all of your marketing efforts (as previously discussed in this blog) – even if you aren’t ready to develop a community – and give yourself a competitive edge.

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Apple Vs. the Evening News: Lesson in Re-Defining a Category

 

There’s a ‘shock & awe’ quote for you.  I use it frequently in client meetings and presentations because it puts the importance of both into a light that many just don’t consider.

Every company markets to one extent or another; but not every company is innovating.

Innovation, especially for legacy organizations, isn’t easy.  Competition on a worldwide scale brings the perpetual better mousetrap. Those that don’t keep up lose market share and eventually go by the wayside.

Not News Directors; “Funeral Directors”

Take the network news shows.  I was amused by a former newsman’s remarks about the decline of network news, and the rise of cable. “News Directors should instead be called, Funeral Directors,” he said, explaining that the viewership decline was due to the fact that the shows continue to broadcast the same thing: the same format, the same programming, that they did three decades ago. 

“They’re no longer relevant.  They’re not managing ideas — they’re not even coming up with any.”

Contrast the networks’ dilemma with the top tech firms – all continually re-defining their categories in one way or another.  With Google’s sudden rise and massive success being first to market with internet search ads (one of many possible examples), Microsoft, Apple and others race to re-define their own services.

Apple – always positioned with that edgy difference – perhaps best exemplifies successful re-definition with the Mac®, the iPod®, the iPhone®, and now, the iPad®.

Apple is admired on many levels.  But what makes it a true bellwether is how masterfully it embodies, and proves, Drucker’s sage words.

 More on Re-Defining Your Product or Service to come in Part 3 of this Series